‘Big Joke’ Left Country, Days After Gov’t Warning

A file photo of Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn

BANGKOK — Former immigration police commander Surachate “Big Joke” Hakparn left Thailand on Monday, his aides said, adding even more mystery to an ongoing investigation into a recent drive-by shooting that targeted him.

Surachate departed Thailand with his wife and family for India, where he would take up monkhood for about a week, according to his aides, just days after the government issued him with an unusually harsh warning not to bring disgrace to the bureaucracy. The inquiry into the shooting also appeared to be going nowhere.

“The incident took place at night, so it’s quite difficult to analyze the footage. There’s not enough light and the traffic blocks our view of the suspects,” metropolitan police’s chief investigator Col. Santi Chainiramai said.

‘Big Joke’ Shooting: Senior Cop Removed Over Leaked Phone Call

He declined to discuss the case any further, instead referring all inquiries to the Metropolitan Division 6, who oversees the investigation.

But when reached by a reporter, division commander Maj. Gen. Methee Rakpan declined to comment about the case. The chief of Bangrak Police Station, who has jurisdiction over the area where the shooting took place, also declined an interview.

Police spokesman Krissana Pattanacharoen could not be reached for comment as of publication time.

Surachate was not injured in the drive-by shooting on Jan. 6. He later suggested “those in power” engineered the attack because he refused to sign on a multi-billion baht biometric project at the airport due to financial irregularity during his tenure as the immigration chief.

The matter took an even stranger turn when a leaked phone conversation shows police commissioner Chakthip Chaijinda telling his deputy not to discuss the case to the media and draw attention to the shooting.

Two senior police commanders were later removed in connection with the leaked audio clip, Gen. Wirachai Songmetta and Gen. Chaiwat Ketworachai.

The government also published a lengthy statement on Friday telling Surachate not to “commit any act that could be considered a gravely evil act,” “report false information to his supervisor,” “commit any act that bullies, threatens, or intimidates the civil service,” or “insults or disrespect the people.”

The notice then instructed him to respect the bureaucracy’s confidentiality and “maintain unity” with fellow civil servants.

It was the latest turn of events for Surachate’s career. The immigration chief was abruptly removed from the force in April 2019 and transferred to an obscure civilian post under the Prime Minister’s Office, though he remained largely missing from the public until the shooting earlier this month.

Additional reporting Tappanai Boonbandit

Note: Some details were omitted from this article due to legal concerns